'It can be damaging': business owners call for online reviewers to eat their words

FAIR IS FAIR: Ibis Styles Orange manger Shane Dowsett and his wife Zoe say people who post reviews online should be named because then, if there is a genuine problem, they know who it is, where it came from and can fix the problem.
Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0429ibis

FAIR IS FAIR: Ibis Styles Orange manger Shane Dowsett and his wife Zoe say people who post reviews online should be named because then, if there is a genuine problem, they know who it is, where it came from and can fix the problem. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0429ibis

ORANGE business owners say anonymity should not be tolerated on user-generated review sites such as Trip Advisor, Urbanspoon and Eatability after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) called for tighter regulation of online posts. 

Concerned by the rise in paid-for and fake online reviews, the ACCC has released guidelines for businesses and review platforms and made monitoring the sector a priority.

ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper said three-quarters of Australians used review platforms when deciding where to eat out or stay on holiday and inauthentic reviews misled consumers.

Ibis Styles Orange featured number two on Trip Advisor for Orange accommodation and Zoe Dowsett said people reading reviews online needed to take them with a grain of salt. 

“It’s a great way of providing information to potential guests ... but from the property’s point of view it can be damaging,” she said. 

Hospitality industry members asked the ACCC to look into the guidelines amid a torrent of complaints about false and malicious online reviews from disgruntled former staff, people who had never been to the venue or troublesome customers. 

Last weekend a post had appeared on Trip Advisor which was potentially damaging to the hotel and Mrs Dowsett said she knew who had posted it and it had been a person known to a “so-called staff member”.

She said the system should be reviewed so that people could still have their say, but people with a grudge were not given the same prominence.

“There is probably a fairer way of doing it, perhaps instead of seeing individual reviews, all of them could be collated into a summary which would give a fairer, more accurate indication of what the place was like,” she said. 

Lolli Redini’s featured as the number one restaurant on Trip Advisor and owner Simonn Hawke said she appreciated online reviews and felt they had more relevance to people than media reviews. 

Lolli Redini’s is a Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide hatted restaurant and only lost the hat once. 

“Media reviews are relevant to an extent but for me it’s more of a personal achievement, accolades for your own self esteem,” she said.

Ms Hawke said people should not be allowed to post anonymous reviews. 

Most people who read online reviews should be able to determine which ones are “bogus” and which are genuine because a viewer could see how many reviews the poster had written, she said. 

“If they’ve only done one and it’s scathing.. their usually full of bad grammar and spelling and its the same all the way through.”

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